It’s hardest-to-pronounce wine grape: Gewurztraminer (guh-vyrts-trah-mee-nuhr).

Fortunately, you can refer to it as just plain “Gewurz” (guh-vyrts). And it is the next big thing in the wine world.

Gewurz is German for “spicey” or “perfumed,” testimony to the grape’s distinctive taste and smell. Tramine is the Italian village where the grape originated. Today, the finest is made in France’s Alsace region. So, Gewurz is a French white wine with a German name made with a grape originating in Italy. Gewurz also is made in Germany, Austria, and in cooler regions in Washington State and California.

Gewurztraminer is a difficult grape that produces wines of diverse quality. It needs a cool climate, but buds early and is susceptible to frost. It is not very productive, tempting growers to over-crop, producing dilute, lightweight wines. It has weak defenses again vine infestation.

On the plus side, its pink berries with thick, tough skins generate amazing sugar levels. Gewurz can be more full bodied than any other white, and dry versions can be quite high in alcohol. It can be made into an excellent late-harvest dessert wine.

Gewurz’s strong, perfumy scent, exotic lychee fruit flavor, and oily texture can be overwhelming and a turnoff, especially when not well made. At the same time, it is the best white—and one of the best wines of any color—you can pair with spicy Asian foods and curry-heavy Indians dishes. The rise in popularity of those cuisines fuels Gewurz’s rise in popularity.

Gewurztraminer. Hard to pronounce, worth a try.


• Alexander Valley New Gewurz. Peach, nose (of course), pair fearlessly with spicy foods; from top California winery. $10

• Adler Fels Gewurztraminer. Classic, tangerine and pineapple nose, soft mouth, California Russian River star. $14

• Kuentz-Bas Gewurztraminer. Elegant on palate, tingly, more delicate than usual Gewurz—Robert Parker loves this French Alsace creation. $27